The Road to College

What made you decide to persue an academic career?

Why is College important to you?

What is one of your most unique life experiences?

More than anything, the past three years of my life have taught me that the journey, not the destination, matters most. Three years ago, I was frantically trying to conjure up a college essay that would make me stand out from other applicants – and now, thirty-six months later, I am back to composing another application essay. Some people may view these years between high school and college as a significant academic loss. However, the places I have been and the people I have met shaped my life in countless ways and have left me a more mature person, ready to embark upon a new journey. June 6, 2004 Listening to my best friend Neal’s valedictorian speech, I waited eagerly for that coveted piece of paper declaring that I had completed twelve years of school. I graduated seven places behind Neal—something that made my parents ecstatic—but I was just glad to be done. I was ready for a new life, one that allowed me to make my own decisions. I had been admitted to Syracuse University, Stonehill College, and the University of New Hampshire, but when it came time to make a final decision I realized that the cost of attending them scared me to death. I was stuck with what most middle class families are faced with today: the lack of financial aid and the hefty price of full tuition. I was unwilling to take a huge financial burden upon my shoulders at that time. So when a friend enlisted in the Air Force told me about the G.I. Tuition Assistance Bill, I decided to visit the local recruiter to learn more about the opportunity.As I learned more about the Air Force, I struggled with the idea of leaving my friends and family for years and with the undeniable risk of losing my life for our country. Eventually, after much consideration, I chose to pursue this career in the military and take full advantage of the tuition assistance program, planning to attend college once I had served my duty. I took the military’s version of the SATs, the ASVAB, and qualified for any job in the Air Force I wished to pursue. Air traffic control was the career that caught my interest the most.Sergeant Sarrison was my Air Force recruiter and I began spending time with him to prepare for the Air Force. His major concern was getting me ready for the rigorous physical training I would receive in boot camp. Running is a staple part of the boot camp regimen and, to prepare for this, Sarrison and I began running three times a week. I had always struggled with running, so I was not looking forward to this new routine. We started out at a modest distance of a mile and a half three times a week and agreed to run an additional half mile each new week. At first I dreaded our longer sessions, but after just over a month we had progressed to four and a half miles per run. I had never imagined I was capable of such a feat. Sarrison had other recruits join our routine, but in the end it was only he and I who stuck with the program. I always showed up for my run, regardless of the weather. This dedication earned me great respect from Sarrison.Ironically, it turned out that I would not need the physical conditioning for boot camp after all. My official Air Force swearing-in was delayed, and meanwhile I received an unexpected offer to work in a management position at a well established company – and I chose the company. I do not regret the effort I put forth while preparing for an Air Force career, as it showed me that with dedication I could reach goals I once thought were beyond my reach. I remember every mile I ran that year with Sarrison, pushing myself both physically and mentally to achieve a level of fitness I had never seen before, and I will always remember Sergeant Sarrison and his determination to help me succeed.I embarked on the next stage of my journey with some trepidation about joining the full-time working world. I started out on the production line to learn the multi-step processes used to manufacture the automotive products we specialized in. Working fifty to sixty hours many weeks, I learned much about the manufacturing process. Once I grasped these concepts, I began my role as the second shift supervisor. I managed facility maintenance, employee scheduling, preventative maintenance, and process and quality control. However, the one duty that proved to be the most challenging was motivating and overseeing the work of six other individuals. I had been in numerous leadership roles in my high school career through heading organizations such as Student Council, National Honor Society and Interact, but my new role as supervisor proved to be a unique learning experience. Getting used to being accountable for the behavior and success of six other people took a long time. This new responsibility taught me a great deal about working as a team and leading that team towards accomplishing its goal. Each night, we were given a certain quantity of product to complete and we were expected to meet or, better yet, exceed those goals. It takes a special approach to motivate a group of workers to take pride in the success of their company, especially when these individuals do not have the best opportunities in life. My tenure as the second shift supervisor proved successful. Typically my shift of rookies would produce more in less time than the veteran first shift. I credit my leadership role as a part of our success but I cannot forget the committed group of workers under me whose efforts were critical to our success. I learned how to regulate the work environment and atmosphere to keep production at a steady and satisfactory rate. Some days I had to liven bthings up with a joke or two, others I had to put my foot down and be stern to decrease playfulness. I walked away from this position with a better understanding of how to successfully interact and contribute to a working team, not only as a member but as a leader as well. Despite my success at this company, I felt there were not enough opportunities for advancement. I left my supervisor position in search of a more rewarding career. For the next month or so I worked in landscaping just to stay busy until my next career move was available. I anxiously awaited my interview to become a member of the Local Union 131 as a plumbing and pipe-fitting apprentice. Out of twenty applicants I was chosen as the top candidate and I began working in the trades shortly after my interview. The apprentice program is five years of full-time work accompanied by night classes. The five years of schooling touch base on numerous aspects of the plumbing and pipe fitting trades including welding, drainage, water supply, medical gas, and mathematics. Working for Northern Peabody Incorporated and attending class two nights a week has been my life for the past year and a half. I have been engulfed by a career full of countless skills which need to be acquired in order to be successful. I worked at Keene State College installing plumbing and heating in their new Butler Court dormitories and I also worked on the renovations of the beautiful Carpenter Library in Manchester. I have also worked in many interesting and complex production plants including Coca Cola, Stonyfield Yogurt, and the Prime Tanning Tannery. I took pride in knowing that I played a small role in getting those products to the shelves for the consumers to enjoy. I was also fortunate enough to work with very knowledgeable mechanics and some of the most ingenious and creative people I have ever met. My experiences on the job and sessions of class at night have given me a vast knowledge of the plumbing and heating industry; however, there still remains so much more to learn. The camaraderie amongst my work crew is what I enjoy most from my current job. Numerous times I have been lucky enough to be paired up with the foremen of the job as my work partner. In my trade, the foremen are the people in charge. They normally earn this position after years of dedication and being the best of the best in their industry. These men have enormous responsibilities and are in charge of running million dollar projects. Aside from learning countless tricks, techniques, and knowledge of the trade from these men, I also enjoyed getting to know them on a personal level. With my own uncertainties in mind, I questioned them on their motives for joining the trades and the life decisions they have made. I enjoyed hearing their eccentric tales of their wild and crazy teenage years. However, they all had one common suggestion for me as they reminisced about being at my age: “Go to college,” they all told me. Three years, three careers, and countless memories later, I sit here typing this essay. For the first time I can honestly say I am ready for college. I am eager to take off the gloves, hard hat, and work boots and trade them in for books, pencils, and paper. I have seen the working world and have realized that I was much happier in the classroom. I am tired with the routine scheduled work week. I want to enter a classroom each day to find my passion, and want to hear that alarm go off every morning, fervent to wake up and start another rewarding day of life. Through the advice of my co-workers along with my own aspirations, I am deciding to pursue a higher education. My real world experiences set me apart from the typical college prospect coming straight out of high school. My work ethic will be strong and this will lead me to be a more mature, successful, and responsible student. I do not regret taking the long road for making this decision to go to college. Without it, I would have missed the sights, climbed the hills, and met the people one does when he leaves the highway for the less direct – but, in my opinion, infinitely richer – back road. I don’t know what the road through college holds, but I trust that it will lead me anywhere I want to go. 

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